How to Make Digital Paintings Look Traditional

How to Make Digital Paintings Look Traditional

painting apps and graphics tablets, like those made by Wacom, come together to form an art
medium that can do pretty much anything. Any look or style can be achieved with the
right tools and knowledge. Hey! I’m Court Jones. And today, we’re going to learn how to use digital
tools to get the look of a traditional painting on canvas. Stan: Hey. Sorry to interrupt, but legally we have to
tell you guys that this episode is sponsored by Wacom. So, thank you Wacom for making this lesson
possible. If you’re in the market for a new tablet,
Wacom’s tablets have always been a favorite of mine. Ok, continue! Court: Now, there’s nothing wrong with a
digital painting that has clear signs of being created on a computer. Some of my favorite artists are those who
make really slick digital illustrations like Craig Mullins, Loish and Sergey Kolesov, to
name a few. But if you want to achieve the look of a traditional
painting on a canvas there are a few things you can do and core concepts you should be
aware of. I love digital painting and oil painting. At the Watts Atelier, I taught both traditional
and digital art classes for years. But the vast majority of my caricature illustration
work is painted digitally. Because it’s faster, cleaner and easier
to edit when clients ask for revisions. Whichever medium I use, I try to make my paintings
look realistic. But I also like to see bold brushwork and
textures – what some people call a “painterly” look. For this lesson, I’ll be sharing 7 practices
and habits I’ve used over the years to create digital paintings that emulate the look of
an oil painting on canvas. And to demonstrate these concepts, I’ll
be painting in Photoshop on the huge new Wacom 32” Cintiq Pro. TIP 1: Follow a Traditional Process The first thing you can do – and this is a
major thing – is to follow the same steps and procedures as you do when working with real
paints on a canvas. Especially in the beginning stages. When working with oil paints, I’ll usually
start by staining the whole canvas a neutral or warm color. Then, I do a quick gesture line drawing before
I scrub in additional washes of local color to block in the big forms or to act as contrast
to the colors I’ll use later in the painting. Doing similar layers of undertone in a digital
painting can help set you up for success later on because those colors often show through
in the final painting, adding unique interplays of the colors and giving an illusion of more
texture or color vibration than would be there otherwise. Now, your traditional process might be different
from mine. Maybe you don’t have a linear stage and
you go directly into blocking in the forms after the stain. And that’s fine. But just remember that when you work with
traditional paints you learn a lot about the craft of painting in general and eventually
develop a distinctive personal style. That’s why I always recommend students play
with real paints first before going to digital. TIP 2: Textures! One of the things that helps make a digital
painting look like it was made with real materials is when there is visible canvas weave or paper
grain. When painting with real brushes on a rough
surface, the paint will catch and stick to the surface in inconsistent ways. These imperfections in the strokes are part
of what give a painting character and a feeling of being made by physical interactions. And that’s really easy to replicate in programs
like Photoshop, where you can apply a canvas texture to any brush in your toolbox. Photoshop now includes a lot of great natural-looking
brush sets designed by Kyle Webster. And other painting apps like Corel or Procreate
also have some really good brush options. But you can, and should, learn how to make
and customize your own brushes so that you can have more control over the look of your
paintings. Here’s a quick tutorial on how I created
one of my personal favorite brushes: a streaky textured brush. First, draw a circular selection and
feather the edges of the selection. Then, with black selected as your foreground color use the paint bucket or click
Alt + Backspace to fill the selection. With the eraser tool, erase a few horizontal lines. Keep the selection active this whole time. Under the Edit menu, click on Define
Brush Preset. Anything that’s inside a selection will
now be a new brush stamp that will appear at the bottom of your brush menu. But you’ll need to change a few settings to get it to work right. First, resize the brush using the bracket
keys. In the Brush Settings Palette, click
on Shape Dynamics and under Angle Jitter, choose Direction. This will make sure that the horizontal lines
stay parallel to the direction of your stroke, giving you the streaky effect. Next, click on the Transfer tab and
set Opacity Jitter to Pen Pressure. So the stroke will fade out with less stylus
pressure. Now to apply a texture: Earlier, I
scanned my favorite belgian linen and made it into a Photoshop texture. To create a texture from a photo, open the
image and then click on Edit, then Define Pattern. The image will now appear as a pattern
in the Texture tab. Click on the Texture Tab, select the desired texture and play around with the Mode
for different texture effects. Overlay mode, Darken and Linear Burn
are my favorites. You can also use the Brightness slider
to change the influence that the texture has on the stroke. Once you’ve got brush settings you
like, be sure to save it as a New Brush Preset and give it a descriptive name. Just a warning though. If you use the same texture everywhere on
every brush stroke everywhere, it can become monotonous and repetitive, which will give it away as
digital. So experiment with different brushes and different
textures throughout the same painting. TIP 3: Limit your layers Ideally, paint in as few layers as possible. Or even one layer, if you can. When you’re working on a real canvas, you
only have one physical surface, or layer, to paint on. Using a bunch of layers throughout a painting
is kind of a safety net. Artist often do it because they’re unsure
about their process and want to be able to change or delete something. But I think it can hold some artists back
from being more adventurous and expressive with their brush work. When you do all or the majority of your painting
on one layer, you’ll be thinking and solving problems more like a traditional painter. And when you work more like a traditional
painter your paintings tend to look more like traditional mediums. Now, multiple layers can sometimes be helpful
and are often practical necessities of the job, like when you’re working for an art
director who may want you to move things around or make revisions later. But try to keep layers to a minimum and
solve visual problems with your brushes. Which leads us to the next tip… TIP 4: Avoid special effects One thing that digital painting allows for
is creating special effects, like a soft glow around a light source where the colors become
oversaturated using a layer effect like Overlay. Also, mathematically perfect gradients and
totally flat fill colors are super easy to do with a single click. But done this way, there is a really artificial
digital look. Also, this painting was done with a basic
round brush, which can be a great tool. But you can do so much more with digital brushes
that mimic real brushes. So I start this painting again, beginning
with the stains of color under the line drawing. And for this whole piece, instead of a simple
round brush, I use a variety of streaky and textured brushes. From start to finish, I don’t do anything
with a menu command or shortcuts. I don’t use selections, fills, gradients,
multiple layers or automated actions. And when I paint a glow around this flame,
I do it with colors selected from the on-screen color picker and different brushes. I keep manipulating the digital paint with
careful drawing and edge control. The luminous effect of the flame is also created
through control of my values. By keeping all the surrounding values relatively
dark, the candle flame will look much brighter by comparison. And the highlights on the metal will really pop. The difference between these two styles of
digital painting should be obvious. When problems are solved with brushes, expressive
brushwork and smart color choices, it has a much more traditional look. Also, when you make a mistake, try not to
use the “Undo” command. Just paint over it. You may start to think more carefully about
each brush stroke and each value when you treat it more like a real physical painting. TIP 5: Use a controlled color palette Color is a huge subject which I can’t properly
cover here. A good way to practice seeing color is to
study the works of past masters. Many of my favorite artists used very limited
palettes and achieved great color harmonies. You can read about what colors they used for
some of the more famous ones or just analyze what you can see in their work and make your
best guess. But when looking at your own subject or reference
photo, you need to decide first what the color temperature of light is. Like, is it warm or cool. And then what range of colors should you use
in the painting. I suggest you try working with a
limited digital color palette in order to achieve color harmony. A great way to do that is to pre-select a
limited range of colors in advance and to put them on your palette before starting. Try to set up all of the major halftone, transition
and shadow colors. When working digitally, you can just put the
dabs of palette colors right on the canvas you’re working on. Just keep them off to the side and as you
paint, use the eyedropper tool to pick a color from your palette when needed. You can lighten or darken the palette colors
too. But try not to add new colors as you go along. And most importantly, don’t sample colors
directly from the photo. That’s cheating and you won’t learn as
much. The more you engage your brain in this process,
the better you’ll eventually get at choosing colors intuitively. Remember, to be a realistic painter, you don’t
have to reproduce the colors in the photo with perfect accuracy. You should just try to make a compelling painting
that’s a reflection of your own artistic sensibilities. You have a lot of leeway with colors in a
painting, as long as your values of light and dark are convincing. TIP 6: Stay back! When painting on a canvas, good oil painters
tend to stand as far back as possible. And great oil painters stand even farther
back! This isn’t something you can really do when
painting digitally. But what you can do is stay zoomed out on
your work as much as possible. Try to keep the whole painting in view while
working on it, as much as you can. That will simulate what oil painters do when
standing at their easels. You’ll probably need to zoom in sometimes
of course, depending on the subject matter. But if you zoom in on small areas too much,
it will tempt you to overwork the details increasing the chances that you’ll sacrifice
the unity of the composition. The farther away you are from the painting
while working, the more impressionistic and painterly your work will be. And seeing the whole painting while working
helps you see how the values and colors relate to each other throughout the composition which
helps with the color harmony. TIP 7: Forget the lines. It’s all about edges. When you start painting on top of a detailed
line drawing, you may be hesitant to cover up those lines with paint and lose the drawing. But when working with real wet and juicy paint
on a canvas, the reality is that you eventually have to cover up the lines and work shapes
back and forth into each other in order to manipulate the edges in interesting ways. In fact, edge variation is one of the most
overlooked and underused techniques in digital painting. And it’s probably the single most important
trait of an artist’s style, other than color, which distinguishes you from other artists. You’ll get a variety of edges by painting
back and forth over the line drawing, pushing, pulling and smudging the digital paint. Real oil and acrylic paints mix on the surface,
colors overlap and cross contaminate with each other. The more variety you add to your edges in
your digital work, the more “artsy” and “painterly” your work can look. To soften and blend edges, look for brushes
that have broken or streaky footprints and then use a light touch. There are even some great digital smudging
tools in Photoshop that create broken edges. But you should use smudging tools sparingly. And don’t forget, for visual contrast, there
should be plenty of hard crisp edges in a painting as well if you want a realistic look. As a general rule, a good place to soften
or even lose an edge entirely is when the values of two adjacent shapes are really similar. So you may have noticed a pattern. The recurring theme here is to try to mimic
the procedures of traditional artists, and to limit your digital tools so that they reflect
more accurately the limitations of traditional materials. If you do that, your digital work will be
more a reflection of you and your skills, rather than the software. Stan: Thanks Court! And thank you to our sponsor, Wacom. This is in my opinion the best digital tablet
on the market. If you want to get one for yourself, my favorite
is of course the biggest and the baddest, 32” Cintiq Pro… But they also have 13”,16” and 24” options
and the MobileStudio line which doesn’t require a computer to plug in to. Check out my links in the description. See you next time! …and get the look of a traditional painting on canvas. Hey! Technically, we have to tell you guys- I totally forgot my line. …to get the look of a traditional painting on a canvas. Oh *beep*! You were totally enraptured by my performance. You don’t think just a casual
douchy push would be better? Hey! Sorry to interrupt! That might be better!

Dereck Turner

100 thoughts on “How to Make Digital Paintings Look Traditional

  1. Proko says:

    Make sure to check out the other video on digital painting "sins" –

  2. Audrey the cat nerd says:

    Just a statement for beginners, this is for a traditional look, if you’re just doing digital painting, go ham with those layers an effects

  3. Norsen Bino says:

    Thanks to you for Arabic ❤️ really very thanks

  4. Abbacchio Deitado says:

    How did you made the color square so big?

  5. mohamed abdallah koktel says:

    i am looking for this lesson for to many months thanx a lot.

  6. KingFluffs says:

    1:25 "I try to make my paintings look realistic".

  7. Garbage Truck says:

    its good to know i already do a lot of these things but like, this was really helpful and im gonna learn a lot from it, the biggest things for me that im gonna try doing more often now are using undo tool less and picking colors from an image just to palette them

  8. Nina says:

    This was a great video!

  9. SiriusBusiness says:

    Super useful tips. Can you have him back?

  10. Mark F says:

    Love the "Kilroy" shot of your face behind the monitor!1

  11. SuperT says:


    These people: “Walk-em”

  12. TheSwalk3r says:

    your brushes are the best ive seen, any chance of you making them available to download or purchase. Or maybe showing us how you made them in a video please. Thank you

  13. Arsoy Geboy says:

    That's super cool!

  14. Mark Boldariev says:

    Now, how to make it in Procreate?

  15. Top REViEW says:

    кароче ты хер поймешь, но блин я занимался класической живописью, и довольно успешно. Но произошла такая штука как взрослая жизнь и я выпал из этого ремесла на лет 10. Недавно купил планшет ибо краски мальберты это все занимает место и т.д. крч нефига немогу привыкнуть к планшету и особеностям CG живописи. Просмотрел кучу уроков вроде как разобрался в особеностях и тем не менее как дело доходит до уплатнения рисунка прорисовки текстур прямо ступор какой то……..

  16. AirFox says:

    very cool. thanks! Do you have an illustrator brush from scratch you created? i like to work there too.

  17. andarted says:

    1:50 – Tip 1: Follow a Traditional Process
    3:03 – Tip 2: Textures!
    5:47 – Tip 3: Limit your layers
    7:07 – Tip 4: Avoid special effects
    8:59 – Tip 5: Use a controlled color palette
    10:43 – Tip 6: Stay back!
    11:43 – Tip 7: Forget the lines. It's all about the edges.

    13:14 – Conclusion

  18. andarted says:

    The whole video in one sentence:

    To make your digital paintings look traditional, do not use any tool, that has no traditional equivalent.

  19. Phillip says:

    I want a video that comes with a brush pack, and walks you through exercises and the process using all the brushes….because adapting beyond just my basic brush I struggle with.

  20. Suhandra says:

    Useful lessons

  21. Badshroom says:

    thanks for the tip

  22. MewSakura12 says:

    I aspire to have a lot of styles under my belt and painting convincingly this way is one of my goals! Thank you for this video!

  23. Fatimah Az-Zahrah says:

    i still confuse about photoshop since i start learning digitaly with autodesk sketchbook, can u suggest some brush that is good to draw in more realistic way?

  24. Natsu Dragnil says:


  25. Arnaud Bacchelli says:

    Love the humor, content, and everything ! Great work

  26. Ms Fahrenheit says:

    Me: sees painting at 1:34

  27. Slash Non-fiction says:

    Everybody gansta till court tries to pronounce Wacom

  28. Ronald Homer says:

    Proko turning digital into hard mode

  29. Bonpoc4er says:

    Арни шикарен 😀

  30. Alexa Rockman says:

    This has such great advice and a lot of it isn't super common! Thank you!

  31. iamhastur says:

    is "wah-kum" really how its pronounced? i always thought it was "way-com"

  32. Adnan Issadeen says:

    Holy shoot. That demo of the special effects vs pure painting approach! That was pure magic

  33. Belze says:

    So, using your tools is now called cheating? lol

  34. Boonhan Yau says:

    very helpful tutorial…i try not to use undo and just paint over the mistake for the first time. And my speed increase so much.thanks you!!!

  35. Draw with Ro says:

    Hi there! I am also a Traditional painter before i also do portraits of different people on canvas but now i shift to Digital Painting and Portraits and i relate and learned on this video.

  36. Thar Chandran says:

    What an amazing teacher, thank you for sharing your knowledge, Court.

  37. Swamp Fox says:

    Let me know when you have mastered making it look as good as Alex Ross's paintings or Thomas Kinkades. Then I'm in. Good video though.

  38. Rift says:

    "Your digital work will be the reflection of you and your skill, rather than the software"

    That's the problem, my skill is mediocre at most..

  39. DHK says:

    hi! can I ask you a question! I'm wondering how to make random shape soft edge custom brush(not just round as shown in the tutorial above). if i wanna make star shpae custom brush with soft edge, then how do i make it? I tried but then I just got roundy selection as I adjust feather.

  40. Mian Rou says:

    I need that texture…

  41. Mu sissor says:


  42. Graphite Smudges says:

    10:23 this is some really helpful advice. I wish I got it earlier as I was learning

  43. David Braun says:

    "technically we have to tell you guys…" and seconds after "these are my favourite tablets"… Yeah, totally believable…

  44. Ridney says:

    I've been really frustrated with an illustration lately, and I needed to hear every second of this. I love my lines, but often fret too much over coloring and make all the mistakes described in the video. I'm scrapping all my (too many!) color layers and starting from scratch with these techniques.

  45. TheDeecWun Kush says:

    "Try and keep your image zoomed out to achieve this effect"

    Or just use the navigator window… The one that literally shows your whole image from a distance. I look at this more than what I am painting. You can see everything needed in terms of shapes and contrast. No one mentions it…

  46. talanock says:

    this entire video can be summed up with just take all the tools digtial painting givers you and throw it right out the fuckign window.

  47. annpadr says:

    Could someone help me out if can I use iPad or have to use laptop? And which app is suitable for this type of painting? Thank you so much

  48. Constantine says:

    This was very usefull! Thank you!

  49. Stephen J says:

    FFS can people stop calling digital work Paintings…THEY'RE NOT

  50. Phillip says:

    How do you get your brushes to actually have that texture in photshop? I can never get them to do that, they always just leave solid lines except for the edge when I lift the brush.

  51. Agent_Ash says:

    And maybe try PaintTool SAI because it has real natural color blending.

  52. Evin Drews says:

    If you don't want to use layers, a better option to save progress is taking a snapshot of your document, under the history window. It'll save an instance of your document that you can contrast & compare or go back too.

  53. augusto penas palmeira says:

    use less airbrush, download texture brushes and play around with the settings and try corel painter

  54. Patrick Callahan says:


    Way Com

  55. Megan says:

    I really liked this guy and his tips, hopefully there will be more digital tutorials in the future ❤

  56. Jake Bassage says:

    I absolutely REFUSE to ever call it wa-come. It will always be way-come. Unless you plan on bribing me with one of those big beautiful tablets you cannot change my mind.

  57. srccretdude123 says:


  58. Hari Harsha says:

    BEST BEST BEST tnx ur Best

  59. chonsa says:

    The most helpful video about digital art I've seen! Thank you so so so so so much😭❤❤

  60. Literalpervertedloser says:

    "In conclusion" the recurring theme here is, you're a good artist and I'm trash.

  61. Stella says:

    This video is so helpful, thank you so much!!

  62. doood says:

    Ok, some of this stuff was undoubtedly helpful, but I feel like some things would just make the process much more longer and tedious than it needs to be. I do agree that for achieving a more traditional look you should stay away from certain digital features, such as perfect gradients. But there's a difference between abstaining from features that would look very artificial and not utilizing the features that digital art has to offer. Sure, you could just change the color of your piece by painting all over it, but it would simply be much more efficient to just use the hue modifying tools. Also, about layer modes, I think using them or not mostly depends on what you're drawing and your style. Traditional doesn't mean realistic, although layer modes would look artificial on a realistic painting, a mindful use of them can fit more colorful artstyles really well, without it looking too artificial and achieving the desired look much faster. Overall, I feel like how you take the techniques shown in this video depends a lot on the time you are willing to spend on your painting and your style. (Sorry for the long ass parragraph)

  63. VanguardSupreme says:

    It's amazing to me that this video only has 240K views right now. 240K is nothing to sneeze at, but honestly, this should have millions of views. This is hella good and useful.

  64. UnkleRiceYo says:

    I wish I had a favorite Belgian linen…

  65. SpeedyCube32 says:

    Them: This episode is sponsored by Wacom…
    Me: cries in Huion H640p

  66. BlackDawnYaoiLover says:

    The fact that Wacom pronounces their own brand wrong
    I will forever refute the 'wackom' pronunciation

  67. operasinger89 says:

    This is just what I needed to hear. I'll be taking digital painting at school in the spring but I wanted to know the best way to approach it. I'll be working on procreate but I also plan to practice on photoshop since I have less knowledge on it.

  68. Ashley Ferguson says:

    Read the brush name as "Stanky" not "Streaky". This video was wonderful and as someone very new to digital work, I was able to understand easily and confidently with your guidance.

  69. xXToraKobayashiXx says:

    Yes I would love to have a cintiq but well …. look at the prices.

  70. Majin Yojimbo says:

    ah, the cheater's way of faking authenticity of calculated desicions

  71. xtarx says:

    hey! maybe I am a GREAT artist… I'm just… poor.

  72. Chris Hanline says:

    I watched this whole video and I learned nothing. What am I missing?

  73. Grace says:

    i've seen people recommend not zooming in further that 100% when working digitally

  74. Grace says:

    i like how you don't dismiss art that does look digital on purpose

  75. GippyHappy says:

    Now can you tell me how to make my traditional art look digital?

  76. GippyHappy says:

    Did you say wet and juicy paint

  77. The Hero John Brady says:

    What if you can't afford any of it though?

  78. Thepsycoticslug ' says:

    This was a really nice one, i’m trying to perfect my style and this one was really helpful! Thank you for the tips!

  79. Colorlessie says:

    Just get better lmao

  80. donita de mora says:

    Hi i tried to emulate some brushes like the ones used in the candle example, for Paint Tool Sai 🙂

    1st brush used in the example:
    *Min. Size: 50%
    *Density: 81
    *Bristle: 50
    * Fabric 01: 10
    *Blending: 59
    *Dilution: 8
    *Persistence: 80
    Every other advanced setting remains untouched from the default brush.

    2nd brush, the square kinda paper-y one:
    * Min Size: 50
    *Density: 82
    *Middle_Flat: 100
    *Paper 02: 48
    *Blending: 47
    *Dilution: 0
    *Persistence: 80

    3rd brush, the one that looks kind of like watercolor:
    *Min Size: 50
    *Density: 62
    *Aquarelle: 22
    *No texture
    *Blending: 50
    *Dilution: 0
    *Persistence: 80

    4th Brush, the very very very soft and stroke-y one (good for blending!)

    *Min Size: 31%
    *Density: 58
    *Bristle: 100
    *No texture
    *Blending: 83
    *Dilution: 55
    *Persistence: 44
    *Keep opacity ✅
    Advanced settings:
    *Quality: 4 (smoothest)

    5th brush, the last one that has the most noticeable texture:
    *Min size: 50
    *Density: 100
    *Middle_Flat: 58
    *Fabric 01: 68
    *Blending: 50
    *Dilution: 0
    *Persistence: 80
    Everything else remains untouched.

    Hope this can be useful for somebody 🙂 have fun!! ✨

  81. Sirius says:

    Tip 8: Use Corel Painter

  82. Taavi Viikman says:

    As a traditional painter, I miss the most a proper fan brush in PS, for blending, that actually picks up and blends paint (smudge is different).

  83. Oje .D. Studio says:

    Jones has a really nice voice

  84. Raruna says:

    "don't zoom in too much" help help I am being assaulted by a pro artist

  85. Tamir Yakboi says:

    You didn't tell us where we can buy a Wacom 32 cintiq if you are in Canada though…

  86. Prashant Garg says:

    @6:00 for the digital dad joke

  87. Jack Walters says:

    Nice. I used that to make a painterly brush.

  88. M Bee says:

    Year 2096 Digital drawings Louvre Paris.

  89. Polikocreation says:

    No tips on mixer brush?
    Also, theres so many pro-players out there rocking the traditional look. Check Ruben Hiraga for instance.
    There's some stuff about that fella that I'm still studying. For sure he comes from Craig Mullins approaches, but theres still lots of tricks discovered with current Photoshop tools everyday. Me myself I'm playing around right now with layer settings such as 'diference' that imitates color contamination of traditional media quite well!
    Of course this video is top notch and pretty clear, but still don't hesitate to research a lot on all the rest of photoshop features, they help a lot.
    Tl;dr: do check mixer brush and layer settings. Fella Ruben Hiraga is a cool example on that.

  90. Matt 476 says:

    Iv been trying to figure out how to project the painterly effect onto 3D animation. do you think there is a way without having to paint every frame?

  91. Lucille Palmer says:

    "thats cheating" bye

  92. A B says:

    This is exactly how i do my digital art. lol but that's because i was a painter first before getting into Digital! glad they're using it

  93. Harry says:

    Wow, this is a professional video.

  94. LMSPetRescue says:

    I’m literally in a painting composition class right now that’s almost all digital…I hate digital because I’m so horrible at it. My teacher is trying to push us to paint “traditionally” in digital and I can’t do it at all, so I’m hoping that this will help me pass her class with an okay grade

  95. Ratus says:

    I love how he didnt put his name on the left candle one XD…

  96. Occidental79er says:

    Managing colours is great in Painter, especially with the mixer pad. You can treat it almost like a painting and have your traditional pallett colours and mix them as you go avoiding the colour picker over all.

  97. chris.sketch says:

    proko and schoolism save my life!!! THANKYOU!

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